Unconventional music @ CERN

3 March 2023

CERN Globe, 19 October 2022

Unconventional music @ CERN
Photoelectric Physicists and musicians celebrated the centenary of Einstein’s Nobel prize by fusing tradition and modernism. Credit: CERN

Honouring the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s Nobel prize, the Swedish embassy in Bern collaborated with CERN for an event connecting science and music, held at the CERN Globe of Science and Innovation on 19 October. The event was originally planned for 2021 but was postponed due to the pandemic.

Brian Foster (University of Oxford) talked about Einstein’s love for music and playing the violin, which was underlined with many photos showing Einstein with some of the well-known violinists of the time. Around the period Einstein was awarded the Nobel prize, Russian engineer Lev Termen invented the theremin, consisting of two antennae and played without physical contact. This caught Einstein’s attention and it is said that he even played the theremin himself once.

Delving further into the unconventional, LHC physicists performed Domenico Vicinanza’s (GEANT and Anglia Ruskin University) “Sonification of the LHC”, for which the physicist-turned composer mapped data recorded by the LHC experiments between 2010 and 2013 into music. First performed in 2014 on the occasion of CERN’s 60th anniversary, Vicinanza’s piece is intended as a metaphor for scientific cooperation, in which different voices and perspectives can reach the same goal only by playing together.

There followed the debut of an even more unconventional piece of music by The Stone Martens – a Swiss and Swedish “noise collaboration” improvised by Henrik Rylander and Roland Bucher. By sending the output of his theremin through guitar-effects pedals, Rylander created a unique sound. Together with Bucher’s self-made “noise table”, with which he sampled acoustic instruments and everyday objects, the duo created a captivating, otherworldly sound collage that was well received by the 160-strong audience. The event closed with an unconventional Bach concerto for two violins in which these unique sounds were fused with traditional instruments. Anyone interested in experiencing the music for themselves can find a recorded version at

bright-rec iop pub iop-science physcis connect